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Reversal - Colostomy

If you have a temporary colostomy, you'll need another operation to reverse it at a later date.

A colostomy reversal will only be carried out when you're in good health and have fully recovered. This will usually be at least 3 months after the initial colostomy surgery.

The reversal may need to be delayed for longer if you need further treatment, such as chemotherapy, or you have not recovered from the original operation.

But there's no time limit for having a reversal, and some people live with their colostomy for several years before it's reversed.

How a colostomy reversal is carried out

Reversing a loop colostomy is a relatively straightforward process. A cut is made around the stoma so the surgeon can access the inside of your abdomen.

The upper section of your colon is then reattached to the remaining section of your colon.

An end colostomy can also be reversed, but involves making a larger incision so the surgeon can locate and reattach the 2 sections of colon.

It also takes longer to recover from this type of surgery and there's a greater risk of complications.

Recovering from a colostomy reversal

Most people are well enough to leave hospital 3 to 10 days after having colostomy reversal surgery.

It's likely to take some time before your bowel movements return to normal. Some people have constipation or diarrhoea, but this usually gets better with time.

You may have a sore bottom after the reversal, but this should improve as you get used to pooing through your anus again.

After every bowel movement, it may help if you:

  • wash the skin around your anus with warm water
  • pat it dry with a soft cloth
  • apply a barrier cream

Avoid using baby wipes, talcum powder or scented toilet tissues as they can cause further irritation.

Other possible problems include needing to go to the toilet more often or more urgently than usual, farting (flatulence), and some bowel incontinence or leakage.

Although a colostomy reversal is usually a smaller procedure than the initial colostomy operation, it still takes several weeks to recover and return to normal activities.

What to eat after a colostomy reversal

Your digestive system may be sensitive after a colostomy reversal. It may help to avoid eating large meals and eating late at night, and to eat little and often.

Certain foods are also more likely to irritate the gut.

It may help to limit or avoid:

  • citrus fruits – such as grapefruits and oranges
  • spicy food – such as curries
  • large fatty meals
  • vegetables that increase flatulence – such as cabbage and onions
  • large amounts of alcohol or fizzy drinks

Gradually you can go back to eating a normal and healthy diet.

Page last reviewed: 16 September 2020
Next review due: 16 September 2023